Saturday, November 07, 2009

Healthcare Reform

Can you make sense of this debate anymore? I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself. I don't claim to have any special knowledge or insight on the topic of making it affordable for people to get good healthcare, but I will say that before they take away my Jell-o, I have moment of clarity I'd like to share.

What insurance is and isn't
I'm 51 years old. When I was a kid, my mother took me to a pediatrician. She paid on the way out, I imagine. Point is -- my dad worked for an insurance company -- one of the giants. They weren't in the transaction. You had health insurance for the unfortunate event of your being in the hospital. It was hospital insurance.

That's because being in the hospital was extremely expensive -- something you need insurance for -- like you house burning down or a devastating car accident. Insurance is meant to be what's called an aleatory contract -- one that depends on a contingency event. The truth is that in life insurance school they describe insurance as a bet.

In life insurance, the company's betting that you're going to live to be 100. You're betting that you'll die tomorrow. It's a crazy business.

Somewhere along the way, the notion came along ... during the 80s and early 90s, it seems to me, that a new financial model should exist for delivering healthcare. Just as Hillary and Bill were talking about reform, the industry declared that it was innovating. Welcome, managed care.

And then, something happened. Your health insurance company was in every transaction. They decided whether or not you needed a specialist. They decided how many visits it would take to treat you. It was a big game of "Mother, May I?"

And with their involvement came the main reason that insurance companies make money -- administrative cost. When I came to North Carolina in the late 1970s, Blue Cross and Blue Shield pridefully shouted that they were terrific because they had administrative costs of five or six percent. Their top executive at that time certainly made under $200,000. Middle and lower managers made in the $25k range -- about one tenth of what the CEO made. At that time, in the Triangle area of NC, you could buy a nice house for $50,000 to $65,000. A palace for $125,000.

The CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Bob Greczyn, is retiring. In 2005, he made over $2 million. Last year, he made just under $4 million. My guess is that he can smell the fresh breeze of reform and thinks that this may affect his exit strategy (parachute). Best to get out quietly while there's still enough hot air to get the chute open.

In the late 1970s, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina operated as a non-profit, a status that it technically maintains today. The culture among its workers was essentially that of a non-profit -- that no one was working there expecting to get rich. It was like working for the public schools or a community hospital. It was doing work that served the public and doing it for cost.

It was the public option -- non-profit health insurance. That administrative cost 30 years ago? It was five percent, remember? Now, it's about 30 percent. Top execs making millions of dollars while jacking up rates year after year? Politicians who will not prohibit this with regulation?

Take it all apart. Pull out the playbook from long, long ago. Go back to hospitalization coverage. Go back to the insurance model (and dump the health management model). Who gets hurt? The Four Million Dollar Man.

Let's not call 911, shall we?

Friday, October 09, 2009

A humble U.S. President - imagine that

From the president's comments today:
"Good morning. Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, 'Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday!' And then Sasha added, 'Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.' So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective."

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Founding Fathers? Really?!

The other day I caught a few seconds of video from one of this summer's town hall meetings. In particular, this was that numbskull woman at Rep. Barney Frank's town hall in which she made refernece to Obama being a socialist --- blah blah blah --- and the they showed clips of her and several other women casting fists of outrage ... all about how Healthcare reform is not what the founding fathers intended.

And then it hit me. I mean really hit me -- right between the eyes. I mean ... the founding fathers? These pristine politicians? These guys couldn't pass a declaration of independence without selling out to the southern states on the subject of their "peculiar institution" of slavery. Well-known was John Adams' opposition to slavery, but he signed the declaration for the sake of the country, leaving the struggle of institutional inhumanity for another day, another generation.

How could I have missed it before? Oh, my GOD, they are so right. And we should definintely act on this right away -- we must do only what the founding fathers wanted -- expressly intended to do, right? We must reverse this trend away from life in 1776.

So, let's start with you, loudmouth-lady-at-town-hall-meeting. Indeed, let's focus only on you. What the hell do you think you're doing speaking at a public political meeting? You have no right to do that. We're going to have to take that up with your husband and we will expect him to beat you for your outrageous and shameful behavior.

And he'll have every right to do it. Every legal right. You are, after all, his chattel. That's right - his property. Oh, the African Americans made all the headlines as slaves, but women were chattel transferred by marriage. Hence the term of the father "giving away" his daughter. She was his to give.

Healthcare? Honey, you don't have the right to refuse sex to your husband. It doesn't matter if this 11th pregnancy will kill you at 35. The man has his entitlement. You cannot own land and you're more than a hundred years from being able to vote. But yell at, argue with or otherwise speak out publicly to an elected official? Oh, no ... this would NEVER happen.

Such tools are these women who would do this bidding for the dopey right wing. These people who would, given the chance, revoke the 20th amendment, reverse the Voting Rights Act, reverse the Civil Rights Act, end Social Security, end Medicare and who would not stop at reversing Roe v. Wade ... oh no. They would go all the way back to Griswold v. Connecticut and wind it all back.

Well, sorry loudmouth lady, but your right to say stupid crap like this in public is much too important to the rest of us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Klan is Loose

If you haven't had the privilege of marching against racism or confronting KKK members face-to-face, you may have trouble with this -- they look like regular people. They don't glow in the dark. They're shopping in the next aisle at Wal-Mart.

SC Rep. Joe Wilson is but the most obvious (and perhaps most recent) example of what the political divide really is over President Obama - it is that element in our society that reduces down to "Can't you see he's black?"

As I've written before, when I first talked to my boss, who is African American, about Obama, I said that one of the things I love about him (as a politician and an admirable figure) is that "he's as much mine as he is yours." He laughed. We agreed.

When you hear the robots chanting whatever Beck and Limbaugh tell them to say, it's all about bankrupting the country, big government and freedom -- presumably from tyranny. Yet they had no worries over 7 years of "emergency" war funding that cleaned out the treasury, no concerns over illegal wiretapping of citizens, and attribute torture to trusting Jack Bauer (a fictional guy from the TV series "24") to do the right thing in the infamous and equally fictional "ticking bomb scenario."

Don't chase down the details that reveal what those torture sessions really did. They did what Cheney wanted them to do -- elicited false confessions. More sand to throw in the umpire's face.

But it always comes back to an intense effort to keep Americans afraid of what Obama "really" wants to do. Sinister motives about ruining the country, "indoctrinating" children and killing senior citizens. And John McCain sits quietly, yet his leadership could really matter right now, on these points. He and Lindsay Graham, who are great friends and used to show signs of caring about some level of simple respect for the presidency, could single-handedly save their party from the lunatic fringe. They could take to the floor of the Senate and say, for the record, that they are disgusted by these tactics and all calling for ALL Republicans to cease and desist or risk being called out by Obama for lying and being called out by them -- for the record, every time. Graham would be the front runner for 2012 overnight and McCain would take a position in political history that he wants - Statesman.

But instead, he sits, Twittering and refusing to apologize for exposing the country to the possibility of Sarah Palin being near an important button. Even more important than "send."

And the Republican party has the bark stripped off it, revealing that those who remain and who support and allow these egregiously racist threats to our president ... those who continue to call themselves "Republicans" or even "Conservative" are now the so-called Christian Knights of the Republican Party. They are to Christianity what binLaden is to Islam.

They are dangerous and they are neither crazy nor stupid.
It's so much easier to dismiss people who you think are "limited" in the grey matter department. That's not what we have here. We have White Supremacy, secret societies (see C Street). Convinced of their superiority, they do not fear jail or disgrace. They fear only the non-white becoming powerful.

Don't dismiss them. Stay with the facts. Be like Barack -- who looked like Jackie Robinson at the podium on Wednesday night. You don't answer a heckle like that. You stare, shocked that the white hood slipped off briefly, revealing the face of hatred. Barack said everything by saying nothing, but oh, my, what must have run through his mind ...

Mr. Wilson, you're no Strom Thurmond.
Mr. Wilson, you dropped your torch and pitchfork. Please see the Sargent-at-Arms on your way out.
Mr. Wilson, thank you for making the pro-choice argument better than I've ever heard it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How can we miss you if you won't go away?

Okay, the first guy who blames the media's intrusion in SC Gov. Mark Sanford's life for the breakup of his certainly doomed marriage gets a fat lip. We're supposed to admire his candor, right? We're supposed to appreciate his sincere apology, right?
Naw. I just want one thing, one thing only -- please, Governor, shut the hell up. I don't want to read your blog or listen to you blubber about your self-indulgent, self-inflicted wounds. I want you to be decent enough to resign from a job that you ran away from and start caring more about your children's experience in this humiliating exercise than you do about your political future.
Another apology? SHUT UP man!
But before you go ... how about a check for all that booty call travel, huh? South Carolina's roads suck, the schools probably stink (obviously more Civics in high school is needed -- to elect better governors) and there are certainly many better uses for that money than your travel bill.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough

Hitting the bed last night, I reminded my husband that my life is the envy of three of the biggest stars in our culture. Certainly, this brought around his interest. "Huh?" he queried.
I explained:
In August 1958, four stars were born. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Sharon Stone and ... well ... me. We all know why the first three are considered iconic. Michael was in another orbit, though when we were both kids (Michael and I) my dad assured me that his singing fame would be fleeting. As soon as his hit puberty, he assured, his career would be over.
Message: study your Algebra.
But last night, I explained that I have what those four have only dreamed of having, and have suffered for its lack.
I have loved the same person for 32 years and he still loves me back. We have two beautiful children from that union and (most of the time) they love us back, too. I attended the college of my choice. I got a degree in a field that I love. In my paid work, I am privileged to, every day, help vulnerable people. in my volunteer work, I have been even luckier to do more of the same.
My life? My ordinary life? That's the real Thriller.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It just makes me happy

Yeah. It's as simple as this.
When I see this picture of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her Middle East visit, I just feel something.
It's change I can believe in ... cause I can SEE it. Look at all those women.

Look at them smiling.
Look at them looking upward.

I don't care what they're looking at. (I know it isn't the U.S. stock market) Sure there may have been pix like this with Condi Rice in them, or Sec'y Albright. I don't mean to diminish their contribution to breaking through ... it's huge.

But right now, it's just this picture.

Lately I wonder if we're going to make it. If the worst is coming. But you know what, this picture helps. Even at 3:00 a.m., when it seems the worst. This one of the official "first swing set." It helps me focus on tomorrow -- better than a thousand words could.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bush's addiction

And let me just add ... In electing Bush, America traded a guy with a sex addiction for one with a gambling addiction. Safe to say that one was more costly than the other.

Look at Bush's conduct -- whenever he started losing, he doubled his bet. From Social Secuity to the so-called troup surge in Iraq. Like most gamblers, he doesn't understand the game he's playing from a statistical or scientific approach -- he thinks that winning has to do with his intestinal track -- does he feel lucky? They say don't play the cards, play the man across from you. All Bush came up with was craps.

You can stay in the casino a long time when you have your own Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Thankfully, not past eight years.

Obama's First Press Conference

If you missed my comment to Maureen Dowd's comment page (and I'm SURE you did!):

I had a dream last night ... it was that in his first press conference, Obama would look out over the White House press corps and see Maureen Dowd and smile. "Glad to see you back, Ms. Dowd," he'll say. Secondly, that he'd look down into the first row and say, "Helen Thomas, you get the first three questions and any followups you need. These youngsters can wait their turn."

I've dreamed of crazier stuff.
Have you noticed about our incoming president that he calls on reporters respectfully? He calls them by their surnames and their media affiliation? "Chuck Todd, NBC News," he says. Not like when Bush would call on David Gregory of NBC news --- "Stretch," he'd say, the nickname due to Gregory's height.

I cannot wait to hear Helen Thomas's first question for Obama. It will be no softball, I expect, but I'm just grateful that she's still pitching. When she finally did get to ask Bush a question or two, she peeled the bark off the guy. Asked him why, when all of his excuses for the Iraq war turned out to be wrong, why was he really so determined to invade that country. I stammered, he insisted that al Queda was too in Afghanistan, dammit. Yeah, but she was asking about Iraq, dumbass.

Will I miss having a guy with the nuclear codes who's a dumbass? Nope. Not even a little.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Yes, they are dropouts

So, I'm sorry ... what?!
Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, has proven me wrong by giving birth to the latest unexpected Palin. Twig, Branch, whatever the poor kid's name is. Bristol's dear mother defends her darling daughter's having dropped out of high school to have her baby by declaring:

"You need to know that both Levi and Bristol are working their butts off to parent and going to school and working at the same time," the Alaska governor told the magazine in a phone message. "They are certainly not high school dropouts."

Yah. Actually the deal is that when you leave high school without a diploma, you have dropped out. If they get GEDs, they still did not graduate ... they got equivalency certificates. Look it up.

When I first went to college, I went for a semester and then stopped going. I got a job, I got married, I moved to another state, I worked for a few years, then I had my first child. But all the time, I was a college dropout. Years later when I took a single course at UNC, I didn't start calling myself a college student who was also working. I called myself a working person who was taking a college course.

And I was still a college dropout. I'm not now, but I was then. And my pay and lack of career opportunities reflected it.

Governor Dipsh*t, you fail (as usual) to grasp the more important question ... why must the GOVERNOR's daughter drop out of high school? Just because she's pregnant? Lots of girls stay in school and finish during and through a pregnancy. And they don't have a staff to assist in childcare and personal transportation. For heaven's sake, why in the WORLD have Levi's parents allowed him to dump high school and be a gopher for an electrician (apprentice ... yeah, right). And all the while the Washington press is wagging their never-tiring tongues about Palin's prospects for president in 2012.

Thankfully, this pinhead will only be busying herself with screwing up her own family and creating promotional video for the turkey industry. Please, America. Keep her out of the lower 48.